Penn State Settles Sandusky Related Claims For Nearly $60 Million
Penn State University has settled more than two dozen claims arising out of the abuse committed by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky:
Penn State has agreed to pay $59.7 million to 26 sexual abuse victims of the former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky in exchange for an end to their claims against the university, Penn State announced Monday.
Of the 26 settlements, 23 are fully signed and three are agreed to in principle, with final documentation expected in the next few weeks.
Rodney A. Erickson, the president of the university, called the settlement “another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State.”
He added, “We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.”
University officials emphasized that the settlement money did not come from tuition, taxpayers or donations, but from various liability insurance policies, which the university believes will cover the settlements and defense of claims brought against Penn State and its officers, employees and trustees. Whatever is not covered is expected to be financed from interest revenue related to loans made by the university to its self-supporting units. The settlements are sealed by confidentiality agreements.
In all, the university has been in talks with 32 individuals who were victims of Sandusky or claimed to be. In a statement, the university said some of the six remaining claims were without merit and others were in possible settlement discussions. The university retained the law firm Feinberg Rozen L.L.P. to act as an independent third-party facilitator of the settlement negotiations between the university and the victims.
“The board of trustees has had as one of its primary objectives to reach settlements in a way that is fair and respects the privacy of the individuals involved,” Keith E. Masser, the board’s chairman, said in a statement.
Clifford Rieders, a lawyer who negotiated one of the settlements, said the average payout matched other recent cases of child abuse, such as those involving the Roman Catholic Church. The amount of payment for each of Sandusky’s victims, however, was decided on individual claims. Eight young men testified against Sandusky at his trial, describing abuse at his hand when they were boys that included psychological manipulation, fondling, oral sex and anal rape.
Rieders said his client received a “substantial” settlement and asked for, and received, a face-to-face-meeting with a top university official whom he would not identify. He said his client had an emotional exchange with the official about “how to make things right,” including noneconomic reparations, which included continued counseling.
“You can never make whole anyone who is raped by another individual,” Rieders said. “My client found the settlement acceptable under the circumstances.”
Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for two victims, said his clients were focused on Penn State’s changes to prevent future abuse.
“They wanted to see new training and protocols before we got to the numbers,” Anderson said. “Over all, it was a very mixed feeling and experience for them. They broke the silence and stood up to the man who overpowered them. At the same time, there’s some deep and open wounds that can’t be closed or healed. They’ve gotten the voice back they didn’t have as kids, but it isn’t a celebration or victory.”
Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence. He was convicted in June 2012 of abusing 10 boys, some of them at Penn State sites. All of the children were from disadvantaged homes. Sandusky, using his access to the university football program, had befriended the children and then repeatedly violated them. He was found guilty of 45 of the 48 counts against him.
All of this, of course, is on top of the fines and other sanctions leveled against the university by the NCAA, not to mention the damage to the school’s reputation.